The 37th Annual John Fisher Zeidman ’79 Memorial Lecture was more than an incisive and engaging discussion of China’s social, political, and cultural transformations over the past 40 years. It also represented the collective memory of Sidwell Friends, found in a lively cross-section of alumni, current students, parents, grandparents, and current and former faculty that spanned over 75 years of Sidwell Friends history.
As the evening’s program began, Head of School Bryan Garman reminded attendees that the Chinese Studies Program—and in particular, the Zeidman Memorial Lecture—encourages us to maintain our faith even in times of global conflict, because it offers hope for future peace through understanding.
This year, those new insights emerged through a panel of award-winning journalists who collectively have covered China and US-China relations for 40 years. Moderator Susan Jakes led Charles Hutzler, China Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal; Christina Larson, Global Science and Environment Correspondent for the Associated Press; and Edward Wong, Diplomatic Correspondent for the New York Times on a journey through recent Chinese history.
Family relationships transformed by urban migration. Ethical and legal implications of technological developments. Economic deterrents to armed military conflicts. In a breathtaking scope of topics affecting China today, these journalists offered a fascinated audience new lenses through which to understand this complex and evolving global superpower.
Charles Hutzler described the “fragile” energy he perceived from a country on the cusp of momentous change during his first trip to China in the late 1970s—a trip he took with the late John Fisher Zeidman ’79. John and Charles were among the first Americans to travel to China after the Cultural Revolution, and on the 40th anniversary of their inspirational trip, several of John’s fellow travelers joined the Zeidman family in celebrating John’s memory.
When John passed away in 1982, Phil and Nancy Zeidman honored their son and his openness, courage, and foresight that brought him back to China in 1981. Since then, the Chinese Studies Program has created opportunities benefitting the entire Sidwell Friends community. Over the past 37 years, hundreds of intrepid and curious Sidwell Friends students have followed in John’s footsteps—exploring China on Minimester trips, cultural exchanges, and classroom studies. Before this year’s Zeidman Memorial Lecture, Nancy—who passed away last summer—was honored as an inspirational leader who taught this community how to transform grief into possibility.
Each Zeidman Memorial Lecture is thought-provoking, but this year, it was equally as poignant.